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Marsha Cowan (CEO, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba);with The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

Getting ready to board the Prime Minister’s plane in Ottawa:Marsha Cowan (CEO, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba); Howard Morry (Community leader; JFM Board member and Chair of the JFM Investment Committee); and Joyce Bateman, Member of Parliament, Winnipeg South Centre


Marsha Cowan CEO, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, January 30, 2014, posted here Feb 25, 2014

I’ve been back from Israel for a few days already as I share this, having been part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s delegation.


There was much timely media coverage during the trip, so I won’t focus on the details of the visit, but I did want to share some personal reflections and observations with you – our donors, our recipients, our community.


In all my years of volunteer and professional work in our community, I have never felt more proud and more connected as a Canadian, a Jew, and a community worker. It was an experience of a lifetime.


There were moments of sheer excitement. For example, I had the distinct honour of travelling on Prime Minister Harper’s plane with Members of Parliament, the media, and other representatives of Canada’s leading Jewish organizations. The plane – Royal Canadian Air Force No. 001 – is a surprisingly modest aircraft, somewhat out of date and not able to carry enough fuel to make the trip without a refuelling stopover in Cologne, Germany. (The Prime Minister’s staff was sensitive enough to set up a partitioned area for davening in Cologne’s airport hangar for those who wanted.)


It was fascinating to be part of Stephen Harper’s motorcade after we landed at Ben-Gurion Airport; and I was in awe sitting in the Knesset, watching history unfold as Prime Ministers Harper and Netanyahu strengthened their relationship with passionate words.


Prime Minister Harper’s speeches at the Knesset and at the state dinner reminded me that Canada is an exceptional country with an important role to play in pursuing tikkun olam, repair of the world – something we’re quite familiar with at your Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. Harper spoke with conviction about democracy, about friendship, about peace, and about principles.


At the Kotel, seeing PM Harper pausing and praying respectfully was a special and spiritual moment for me as the Prime Minister of my country paid the highest respect to my faith. My pride in Canada and in my Jewish identity swelled.


Throughout the trip, I was intrigued by what Israelis were saying to me about the Canadian visit. One friend’s father wondered why PM Harper was such a booster of Israel – he was even a bit cynical! I assured him that Stephen Harper’s feelings about Israel were sincere and based on his principles. I also told him that Harper speaks the same way in Canada as he does in Israel (I heard him speak at the Jewish National Fund of Toronto Negev Dinner in December). The day after my visit with my friend’s father, Harper coincidentally repeated my assurance and told his audience that he says the same things about Israel in Canada as he does in Israel. That brought a smile to my face.


Another man I met felt embarrassed that Israel did not do even more to honour Stephen Harper and celebrate his visit! I couldn’t imagine more being done! The Israelis were gracious hosts.


After the formal part of the trip, I decided to stay a couple of days extra in Jerusalem where I had the good fortune to meet with Eran Shmueli-David of Jewish Federations of Canada (UIA). Eran and I have met before in Winnipeg as he helped us connect an anonymous JFM donor with a successful capital project in Tzfat in northern Israel.


Our donor’s gift to the Ziv Medical Center in Tzfat (affiliated with Bar-Ilan University) has made a real difference to the community, and was the second largest capital gift from Canada. Interestingly, Eran told me, the Medical Center has been treating injured refugees from the Syrian civil war and a Syrian refugee mother recently gave birth there.


If you are interested in supporting a project in Israel through the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, please let me know! We are happy to do project research to help donors find projects and causes that matter most to them, and that help address important needs in Israel (through registered Canadian charities).


I have returned rejuvenated and grateful; excited and eager to further advance our work at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in this, our 50th anniversary year. Through our donors, we make life better in Canada and in Israel. That’s what we do and we’re proud of it.


Reprinted with permission from Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's website


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